I’ve been a bit of a secret fan of Pete Murray for some time, having first encountered him and his band, Lo-Pro, when they covered a Filter song which I thought they made their own. Ever since then, I’ve been enjoying the multiple Lo-Pro releases, and their side stuff under the pseudonym Life on Planet 9. So when I heard of another project of Murray’s called White Noise Owl, I was intrigued to say the least.
White Noise Owl could be classed as a rock super-group, featuring members from established bands such as Amen, Aurora Sky and Evanescence, as well as the afore-mentioned Lo-Pro, so it’s always interesting when established musicians get together and try something different from their usual band, which can sometimes leave them in a rut. It sometimes doesn’t work, but here, White Noise Owl shine amongst other super-groups. So, with that info out of the way, let’s crack on with the review!
How Was The Week? kicks the EP off, starting off with some ambient wind noises, which give way to literal white noise and a pounding and muted guitar riff, before the first proper song of the EP, Feed, abruptly rams the listener with a wall of noise. Despite having one guitarist, Chris Shy certainly manages to fill the spaces and the opening riff to Feed certainly reflects this. Jon Fahnestock and Will Hunt provide a pulsing rhythm section to accompany the guitar, on bass and drums respectively, before Murray’s vocals howl in and linger. There’s a tinge of growl about his voice, something often missing from rock singers. The chorus to Feed comes crashing in after a build-up in the first verse and lifts the listener up before dropping away in preparation for the second verse. The bridge kicks in after a while, with both programming and whispered vocals from Murray being layered over a progressive series of yells from Murray, before a simplistic yet appropriate solo from Shy drops in. One of the things I always liked was just how much there is going on in a Pete Murray song with the vocals and how they play around with other instruments, and Feed certainly carries on this tradition after the solo, with background vocals intertwining with the main vocal line. A solid start to the EP, Feed prepares the listener for the rest of the EP and its general tone.
The next track, Bomber, opens with radio chatter and an almost tribal drumbeat, before guitars and bass and effects kick in. Like the previous track, Bomber is a straight-up rock track with screamed background vocals, a hammering guitar riff, and pounding drums and bass. This is definitely the track that the drums take a centre stage for a lot of it, with guitar occasionally making its mark. In terms of vocals, there’s a sense of bitterness which Murray manages to express well, at times howling “I never believed in you!” – definitely a solid song to follow Feed.
End over End is the ballad of the EP, if such a term can be applied to this EP. Certainly, it’s the slow track of the EP, and features gently overdriven guitar arpeggios overlaying a quieter drumbeat, until the first chorus, which kicks the listener in the ear. This song seems to adopt a questioning tone in terms of vocals, occasionally dipping into a confused and accusatory tone as well, which again, Murray manages to portray extremely well. The vocals shine through on this song, giving the listener a full display of what Murray is capable of, from harmonies to a full-on rock screech which still manages to be melodious. My only major qualm is that the drumming sounds a bit repetitive throughout this song after the first verse, which is slightly disappointing. The track ends with what sounds like a mellotron, or possibly an effected organ, in a quiet climax to the quiet song of the EP.
The final track of the EP, Are You Breathing? is possibly my favourite track off the EP. Starting quietly and gently with programming and a guitar in the background, the song abruptly shifts into overdrive with another cyclical riff that Shy seems to be fond of. Thumping drums and a matching bass line complete the ensemble. It also seems to me that on this track, the band had plenty of fun experimenting with getting great ambient tones throughout, such as before the chorus kicks in properly. There’s a nice mix of distorted guitar, piano and clean guitar overlayed with minimal effects throughout the track, providing the listener with a nice respite at times. A beautifully ambient bridge of programmed noise and clean guitar before adding in drums and bass is what really makes this song for me, as it’s the perfect way to encapsulate the entire bands sound. If I had to pick any minute and roughly a half of any song for someone to listen to to get an idea of what White Noise Owl are, from 3:08 to 4:33 are what I’d choose, as it features atmospheric ambiance of clean guitar and whispered melodic vocals giving way to a crashing drumbeat and riff and a howling vocal line.
What I’ve found missing from most rock bands nowadays is a sense of rawness, of emotion, due to heavy processing stripping out the feeling behind songs. With White Noise Owl, you get that missing link of rawness and emotion and just pure rock. They’re not making music to be noticed, they’re making it because they enjoy it, and it shows with this EP. Bring on more White Noise Owl!